The new trailer for Spike Lee’s “Red Hook Summer” is all over the Internet now as it finally gets its limited release at the start of August. The movie is the sequel for Lee’s breakout movie, “Do the Right Thing.” While the two movies share little in common in the storyline, it is the return to Brooklyn for Lee and the ideas of race and class warfare and their effects on regular people that connect the two films.
Spike Lee was talking to The Guardian about “Do the Right Thing” a few years back, the movie now available from the Criterion Collection, and went on a slight rant about another movie that recently received its own Criterion Blu-ray release, “La Haine.” Lee was not happy with the movie because he said that Mathieu Kassovitz ripped off his movie and never gave credit where it was due.
“Do the Right Thing”
“Do the Right Thing” took place in a small Brooklyn neighborhood on the hottest day of the summer. While the movie is a day in the life of the neighborhood, it is also a look at relationships that were boiling to a point where an explosion was inevitable. The movie paints the picture of the neighborhood, with the African Americans, white Italian Americans and Asian Americans allowing the racism of the time to blow up.
Released six years later, “La Haine” is a French film about low income citizens on Paris’ outskirts, featuring a Jew, an African and an Arab, and the immigration problems that plagued France at the time. The location the film dealt with at the time was rife with violence, burning, looting and battles with the police every night. Much like Lee, Kassovitz was influenced by the racial tensions of the time as he told his story, a one-day slice of life in a period that ends in tragedy.
Homage or Rip-Off?
It is obvious that Kassovitz was influenced a great deal by Spike Lee. He added a lot of touches to his movie showing that he was a great fan of Martin Scorsese as well. The idea that Kassovitz ripped off Lee is a little unfair to the director. It is understandable that Lee wanted acknowledgement that his movie played a part in the structure of “La Haine,” but the fact is that both movies were made, geared around the politics of the time, and the world that each director knew.
“La Haine” and “Do the Right Thing” are both available on Criterion Collection and make a wonderful double-bill for any movie fan. Watch them together and see how each director, in their own way, tells the story of death and tragedy based around the racial imbalance of their era. “La Haine” is not a rip off but it is a wonderful film that follows the same arcs as “Do the Right Thing.”